The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: FIFA Warn ZIFA

FIFA have come down hard on Zifa and warned the association that they risk losing the world soccer governing body's support unless they show greater commitment to reducing their mounting debt.

Zifa are battling debts that have been growing by the day and are over US$4 million in the red.

In fact, the soccer mother body could have collapsed long before the end of the 2012 soccer season were it not for the benevolence of their president Cuthbert Dube who has had to dig deep into his personal resources to bail Zifa out.

But even Dube's financial assistance, well in excess of US$1 million, has not proved enough to help Zifa move out of the red.

Zifa have also been trying to secure an unprecedented cash injection from Fifa outside the annual grant of US$250 000, which the world body gives to member-countries under the financial assistance programme.

It, however, emerged that Fifa who recently sent their development officer for Southern Africa Ashford Mamelodi and financial consultant Fidelis Banda for an assessment tour, are not amused with the way the Zifa debts keep mounting.

Mamelodi and Banda are understood to have berated Zifa for the manner in which they were failing to make meaningful austerity measures to curb their problems.

Zifa vice-president Ndumiso Gumede last night revealed that Fifa had strongly warned them that they risked virtually collapsing and even losing the US$250 000 grant they are getting from the world body, which has been channelled to the Goal Project.

Already, Zifa have lost US$75 000 which will be docked off their 2013 grant after the association inexplicably failed to respond to a critical financial questionnaire sent to them by Fifa.

Gumede said Fifa's tough stance had also forced them to review their international obligations with Zifa now set to withdraw from all games and competitions for which they do not have substantial financial backing.

This development has also left a huge cloud of uncertainty hanging over the Warriors 2014 World Cup qualifier against Egypt in March next year with Gumede revealing that the senior team will only fulfil that fixture once Zifa have secured adequate funding for the assignment.

The Warriors must travel to Cairo on the weekend of March 22 to resume their faltering World Cup African Zone Group qualifying campaign before hosting the Pharaohs in Harare on June 7.

Zifa have this year already hogged the limelight for the wrong reasons after failing to send the national Under- 20 and Under-17 sides to Angola and Congo Brazzaville for their respective African Youth Championships qualifiers.

Although the individual players are not affected, Zimbabwe now await at most three-year bans from taking part in competitions of these two age groups from the Confederation of African Foot- ball.

The Zifa board have since voted to forfeit their sitting allowances as part of cost-cutting measures but Gumede said the duo of Mamelodi and Zambian national Banda insisted that "foregoing allowances only was not good enough".

"Fifa strongly advised us not to just commit ourselves to games unless someone comes up with full funding for those matches and not just players bonuses or allowances.

"So come January 1, we are not going to take part in any games unless there are tangible financial commitments to cover for everything including incidentals.

"It has been Fifa's observation that the more we commit ourselves to fulfilling a lot of matches, the deeper we are sinking in terms of our debt and when you look at it closely you can see that it is true.

"Fifa's Mamelodi and Banda said we even risk losing Fifa support unless we do enough to take ourselves from the quagmire and unless we move out of the financial mess we are in.

"Already we have lost US$75 000 because Fifa are not happy that we did not respond to a financial questionnaire which they say they sent to us but we did not know about until Mamelodi came here.

Now that money will be deducted from out grant next year.

"So in short Fifa said to us just don't get yourselves involved in games unless you have a full government guarantee or sponsorship that covers accommodation, match expenses and all incidentals.

"That means even if someone says let's play a match for US$100 000 appearance fees and if that US$100 000 is not enough to cover for everything then we may have to forego that opportunity," Gumede said.

In view of the stern Fifa warning, Gumede said, Zifa were now even weighing their options ahead of the resumption of the Warriors' 2014 World Cup qualifiers.

"Unless Government chips in and funds the match against Egypt, we are better off paying a huge fine of about US$50 000 to Fifa than accruing another huge debt to fulfil the game.

"We cannot continue to rely on Dube alone to clear some of our debts before we even look at the liabilities that are now pegged at US$4 million and we have old the Minister Coltart about our predicament," Gumede said.

The Zifa vice-president said his association had also sought to chart new ground by setting up a Football Trust, which is different from the regular Warriors Trusts that have been put in place over the years.

Unlike the Warriors Trust, Gumede said, the Football Trust would not only cater for all national teams but also handle the national game's liabilities.

"We are setting up a Football Trust and names are floating around and we are hoping that the Trust which will be independent of Zifa can take over the funding of football and we can concentrate on such issues like development.

"If successful that Trust would also take over the liabilities which are just over US$4 million.

"Fifa even asked us why we could not ask for a dollar each from all the five million adults in the country and let those donations help liquidate the huge debt that our football has.

"Fifa are also in no doubt that Zimbabwe is a nation whose people are so passionate about football but they just can't understand why there is very little financial support for the game," Gumede said.

Although they inherited a bankrupt association when they came into office in March 2010, the Zifa board know fully well that it is not good enough to keep crying about the problems they inherited without finding ways to take the soccer mother body out of the mud.

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